28 September 2014

Ask The Right Questions

Vastra: Who or what could have done this thing?
Doctor: No.
Vastra: I'm sorry?
Doctor: No. That is not the question. That is not where we start.
Strax: The question is how. The flesh itself has been combusted.
Doctor: No, no, shut up. What do you all have for brains, pudding? Look at you. Why can't I meet a decent species? Planet of the pudding brains.
Clara: Doctor, I know you're upset, but you need to calm down and talk to us. What is the question?
(dialogue from 'Deep Breath' - Doctor Who)

The Doctor has a point here, you know. We humans are crashingly bad at asking the right questions. We seem to excel in excuses; to delight in dismissing opinions contrary to our own. We're good at some questions but we aren't very good at the tricky subjects. We don't like being out of our depth.

However, the best way to learn is to test what we hear - we need to keep on asking questions...

Just think for a moment would could happen if we actually started to ask the right questions for a change? To dig deep. To ask those difficult questions. To check those facts. To read around the subject. To test the answers that we get back. To write those answers down; then ask more questions. And repeat...

Those words were made very clear to me during this morning's prayer meeting at the Hall.

I will get the answers I seek if I keep on asking the right questions.

Awesome.

Psalm 119:18 (NIV)
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

27 September 2014

Jeux Sans Frontières


Back in the Sixties and Seventies, I used to regularly watch "Jeux Sans Frontières", a European-wide television game show, where teams from a number of countries (usually dressed in outlandish costumes) competed against one another in a variety of bizarre games. In the UK the show was also known as It's a Knockout, the title of the BBC's domestic version.

The French title was the inspiration for Peter Gabriel's 'Games Without Frontiers' (1980), which featured the lovely Kate Bush on backing vocals. The song was a study of some of the silly behaviour we can see in adults. Immaturity, petty-mindedness.

On to the subject at hand. You know, I believe I can identify with what Peter was getting at in this song. I get more than a little concerned about some people's behaviour. They spend their time moaning and groaning about things that happen in their lives, but can't seem to get past this, to rise above it, even though I truly believe that they can. They choose to moan rather than actually do something about it.

And I also have a number of other friends who are genuinely trapped in their own circumstances, who would love things to be different and to be able to take action but simply cannot move. These are the folks who need to be empowered.

How can I help them both? By seeking to make a difference in their lives. And that's a whole different game. And I truly believe that's the sort of game God wants me to play!

A game without frontiers.

And it's possible! I've heard a lot lately about embracing life in all its fullness, living beyond the limits, beyond any self-imposed 'frontiers'. Its about recognising God's hand at work in this world. And of being a part of His work, wherever you are.

This sort of game can be played anywhere you like - in the workplace, the school, the home. Although it could be extremely costly...

Does that sound crazy to you? A bit bizarre?

Good. I must be on the right lines...

23 September 2014

Transumers

I guess I am a transumer - at least, so I am told by an email I received the other day.

Apparently, it's a term used about people who commute or travel around a lot. In essence, we are "transit consumers" and therefore we're more likely to use retail outlets at railway stations or airports. The word was first coined by Fitch, the US design and business consultancy, a decade or so ago — it’s not really in common use by the general public.

I kind of like the word. However, I don't go a bundle on the world it describes. A strange world of tired and frustrated commuters, who are always in a hurry and therefore don't have the time to shop around; desperate to purchase a bite to eat as they travel because they skipped lunch; eager to buy a magazine or book to occupy their time on the train; determined to buy that last-minute present so that they have something to take home. The retailers respond by providing few choices and overpriced products to what is essentially a captive market.

It's sad.

15 September 2014

Run Away!

I spend quite a while every day pondering interesting subjects to write about in this blog.


I don't ever have a difficulty in putting the actual words down on paper/tablet/screen. No, the art is in finding that suitable topic. At any one time I have twenty or thirty 'possible' entries floating around in my head. I currently have seven posts in draft, most at various stages of readiness, not quite ready to publish. Once I start writing, I spend absolutely ages changing one phrase or another, until I'm ready to hit the button and let you see it.

There was a particular issue that I wanted to address, but airing this topic would never be easy. Dealing with it head on would give me more problems than it would solve. Nothing in this blog is ever NSFW and I want to keep it that way!

Suddenly, an email hit my mailbox. It was from Rick Warren and was entitled "Don't Fight Temptation - Flee It!" Oh wow - that's how I can approach it! The email started out by quoting the following bible verse: "Be alert. Continue strong in the faith. Have courage, and be strong."(1 Corinthians 16:13, NCV)

Whatever habit, weakness or addiction that you or I may face; the first stage of beating it is to open your eyes to the problem. To identify that you have, in fact, got a problem. And  to admit that it’s not a sin to be tempted. The trouble comes when you give in to temptation.

Now, here's the point. Our society makes a great virtue out of being strong. Being an overcomer -  winning out against tremendous odds. Being first. The problem comes when your strength or willpower fails and you stumble, trip up, give in. You feel a total failure! You pick yourself up, try again. And you could fail again!

The other thing that modern-day society excels in is entirely the opposite to that. They'll tell you, actually, it's okay. If it feels good, do it! So many people try the first way, and then sit for the rest of their lives in the second camp. "I've tried and failed. It's too hard. So I'm just going to sit back and live with it. And who says it's wrong anyway..."

There is, in fact, a third way. We need to flee temptation. We need to run away.

Now, running away is not a terribly popular thing to do. It feels like failure - but it is, in fact removing yourself from an enormous problem. Rick's email quoted one of Saddleback Church’s pastors, a man called John Baker, who said: “You hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re going to get a haircut.

Too true! If you want to quit drinking, you need to stop going down the pub to have your lunchtime meal! If you start feeling awful because you're tempted to watch less than wholesome late night TV channels, don’t have those channels any more - use your parental blocks to remove the problem.

You need to know what tempts you, when it tempts you, and where it tempts you. Then -  steer clear of those situations.

It might be a matter of who tempts you... The Bible says "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character"(1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV). There may be some people that you need to keep away from.

Sometimes you don’t need to fight it; you need to run away from it. Run after the good stuff in life instead.

9 September 2014

Peace And Quiet

I managed to find the chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of the office for a little while at 12 o'clock.
A quiet spot in the City of London is difficult to find at the best of times.  Somewhere that didn't have stacks of people; ideally somewhere with a sight of the Thames.
I rose above it - and found my solution. A covered walkway across the road that led to a balcony. A perfect, elevated view of the river. Nobody for fifty yards in every direction. Bliss!

6 September 2014

On Emotions, Feelings and Numbness

This is a follow up to a post I wrote a few months ago about numbness. Here it is for ease of reference...

Just to put that last post in context, it was written just after I had experienced an extended period of numbness: I posted it up as a way of simply coming to terms with the whole experience. I wanted to understand what it happened, and why. I wanted to identify what had triggered it. The Pink Floyd song just summed it up for me!

The odd thing was that, during my 'numbness' experience, I couldn't honesty say that I was, on the whole, particularly unhappy. It was just that I didn't really feel anything. Everything was just kind of neutral, non-descript. A rather bland shade of beige.

I'm coming back to this again as I've gained a new insight in to this in recent weeks. My son has just turned 18 and he's encountering a whole new series of challenges, one after another (social, emotional, physical). And I'm seeing the same sort of thing happen to him. He's struggling to process all of the emotional input. He goes into autopilot, goes into what he calls his 'dog and pony show' routine (when he's going through the motions). Interestingly, he is an introvert, like me. Is there a connection?

I believe so. In searching for clues I have come across plenty of people who are able to share their experiences about introverts and this 'lack of feeling' seems to be remarkably common! Many have asked similar questions. What causes this inner numbness? And how do you fix it?

The key to this for me is in understanding who I am; how God has made me. He made me an introvert; and a highly sensitive one at that. Introverts like myself don't thrive in busy social gatherings; in fact, the whole experience is intensely draining. We then recharge by preciously guarding periods of 'down time'. Time alone, away from distractions.

I must admit, in times of high emotion, I get swamped! Some experiences, emotional highs, can be overwhelming. Yes, the times are great - but enough is enough. And too much is way too much! My times of numbness have usually followed frantic periods of activity, huge chunks of time taken up with crowds of people or loads of interaction, one person after another. I'm running on vapour by the end of the day and simply start 'switching off'. It's automatic, a self-defence mechanism - to combat the constant energy drain, I start to shut down my emotions.

However, I've learnt (often, the hard way!) that this means I need to rest! Start up the next day without being properly rested and I run the risk of these emotions failing to boot up at all! Regularly ignore all the warnings and pretty soon my emotions will be so well hidden that even I won’t know how to find them...

I'm getting better at reading the signs, now I know what it means. It's OK, I just need time to recover. I'll soon be able to feel again.